With lift tickets topping $100 a day at major ski resorts, a family ski vacation can be an expensive prospect before you even think about hotels and meals — and if you don’t live within driving distance of snow-covered mountains. But you can trim that to fit the budget by looking at some of the smaller family-friendly ski resorts with affordable tickets. All these resorts offer lift tickets at less than $75 a day for adults, with packages and deals that make them even more affordable.
Bolton Valley, Vermont
Near Burlington, and even closer to the airport for those arriving by air, Bolton Valley is a little world of its own, a low-key resort village at the end of a valley, surrounded by forest. Trails are evenly split for all skill levels, with 12 glades and three terrain parks. The 62 miles of Nordic and backcountry trails keep cross-country skiers and snowshoers busy, and there’s a heated pool and sports center at the base of the lifts. No need to drive once you’re there, as there’s ski-in-ski-out lodging at the base, too.
Just over the border from Vermont (you can see Jay Peak from the trails), Bromont is in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, so Americans need passports to ski here. But with lift tickets just more than $50 a day for adults you get access to 155 trails across a variety of terrain covering seven sides of four mountains. More than 30 trails are rated for beginners and one third of the terrain is for intermediate skiers. For even lower rates (about half the price of a full mountain ticket) you can ski the beginner and intermediate trails on Mont Soleil. For après-ski, there are full resort facilities at the base.
Cranmore Mountain, New Hampshire
Rising from the classic ski town of North Conway, often named America’s No. 1 ski town, Cranmore offers the warm, friendly atmosphere of a much smaller resort. It excels in beginner and intermediate terrain, with plenty of challenging trails for experts. While the regular lift rates are above the $75 mark, you can get deep discounts by buying tickets ahead through the website. Teen rates are also lower than most mountains, and kids under age 5 ski free. The learner programs are excellent, and North Conway has lots of budget-and family-friendly lodging options. There is a large snow tubing park and adventure center adjacent to the slopes.
Camelback Mountain, Pennsylvania
Handy to Philadelphia and New York City, the Poconos are better known as a summer playground. But Camelback Mountain extends the recreation season to winter, with 30-plus trails for beginning and intermediate skiers and boarders. Families with younger children appreciate the play center and excellent learners’ programs and the whole family can enjoy snow tubing, the mountain coaster and the water park at the base.
Sugar Mountain, North Carolina
In the Blue Ridge Mountains, close to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Sugar Mountain’s 5,300-foot elevation combines with 100 percent snowmaking and state-of-the-art grooming to assure good skiing. About half the trails are rated intermediate, with the rest divided between beginner and advanced, so there’s something here for the whole family. Much of the mountain is lighted, extending the ski day, and the resort also offers ice skating, snow tubing and snowshoe trails. Weekday rates for adults are $46, and all rates are reduced in March.
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